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News Briefs

Yeltsin Picks Loyalist As Domestic Security Chief

The Washington Post

President Boris Yeltsin Monday named a trusted Kremlin aide with no experience in intelligence work as chief of the Federal Security Service, the domestic agency that is the chief successor to the Soviet KGB.

Yeltsin, acting as he was released from a hospital after a two-week stay for treatment of a heart problem, gave the job to Kremlin security chief Mikhail Barsukov, the fifth man to hold it in four years.

The frequent leadership changes at the agency, as well as Yeltsin's choice of a tried and true loyalist, reflect the president's uneasy relations and apparent lack of trust in the intensely conservative security service. "He's tired of glancing over his shoulder," said one analyst here. "He wants someone he can count on 100 percent, absolutely."

Yevgenia Albats, a prominent Russian journalist specializing in the security services, said Barsukov's appointment reflects Yeltsin's determination to exert control over the agency in advance of parliamentary elections this December and a presidential ballot scheduled for next summer. "For Yeltsin, it's very important to have the entire structure under his direction at the time of the elections," she said.

Barsukov's appointment also signals a gain in influence for Alexander Korzhakov, the shadowy chief of Yeltsin's personal bodyguard, who is widely regarded as a modern Rasputin in the Kremlin - extremely close to the president, hugely influential and widely feared.

PBS, NBC to Cover '96 Conventions

The Baltimore Sun

PBS and NBC will team up again to provide coverage of the 1996 Republican and Democratic national conventions, PBS President Ervin S. Duggan announced Tuesday.

"This renewed collaboration between PBS and NBC is in keeping with PBS' strategy of forming ventures with strong media partners," Duggan said.

According to Duggan, convention coverage in 1996 will likely resemble that of 1992, he said.

During the conventions, PBS viewers will see "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" at its usual time. After the news show, "The NewsHour" and NBC will begin their two-hour joint coverage on PBS stations, alternating segments anchored by Jim Lehrer and Tom Brokaw. Then the two news organizations will separate, with Lehrer anchoring for PBS and Brokaw for NBC.

"By combining the forces of the NBC News team led by Tom Brokaw with that of PBS and Jim Lehrer, we have created a coverage team and format that is unbeatable," NBC News President Andrew Lack said. "Viewers were very well served by this partnership in 1992."

While Lack pointed to journalism and public service as the reasons for the partnership in 1992, in fact, NBC went to PBS because it no longer wanted to carry low-rated convention coverage during prime time. The double whammy of spending extra money to cover the convention and earning less from advertising during the prime-time convention hours was the real force behind the unprecedented pairing of commercial and public TV news operations.

Canada Protests Regulatory Bill

The Washington Post

Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps has sharply criticized regulatory reform legislation now before the U.S. Senate, saying that "some members of Congress appear to have become radical anti-environmentalists."

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, R-Kan., would "gut" numerous environmental laws and "undermine environmental enforcement," Copps said Monday.

"We don't want to interfere in domestic affairs in the United States," said Copps, who also is environment minister. "The problem is that actions being debated in the Congress affect the air that flows freely over our undefended border. They affect the health of over 30 million Americans and Canadians living in the Great Lakes Basin."

One version of the bill has passed the House of Representatives; Dole is negotiating for enough votes before he brings it up for Senate consideration.

Copps said the Dole bill would "gut" laws on "industrial pollution, sewage, storm water controls, wetlands, agricultural runoffs, water quality and air quality."

Gingrich Noncommittal About Foster Theories


Add a big name to the conspiracy theorists. Sort of.

"I'm not convinced," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., when asked Tuesday if he believed that former Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster committed suicide. "I'm not convinced he didn't. I'm just not convinced he did," Gingrich said.

This was the speaker's breakfast patter as he discussed the state of the world with about 20 reporters Tuesday. By lunchtime, Gingrich's spokesman, Tony Blankley, called President Clinton's spokesman, Mike McCurry, to limit the speculation, emphasizing that Gingrich's views were more commentary than based in fact.

Gingrich did say he saw no reason for any further investigation of the July 20, 1993, death of Foster, the longtime friend of the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I don't question it," continued the speaker. "I just don't accept it."

Foster was found draped over a cannon with a gun cradled in his hand in Fort Marcy Park overlooking the Potomac River. U.S. Park Police ruled it a suicide as did former special prosecutor Robert Fiske.

But Foster's death and the confusion that followed have enmeshed the White House for the two years since and prompted two congressional investigations. The incident has also sparked an endless stream of conspiracy theories, especially in the British tabloid press, that have embraced Foster's death and related matters.